Colts shock Packers
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — All Chuck Pagano asked the Indianapolis Colts to do was focus on football.
Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne did that — and more to honor their ailing coach.
The rookie quarterback and veteran receiver connected at the most critical moments Sunday, including a 4-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left to complete the Colts’ second-half rally and stun Green Bay 30-27 on perhaps the most emotional day in Lucas Oil Stadium history.
“I’m sure we were all lying to everybody the whole week, trying to downplay it,” Luck said after throwing for a career-high 362 yards. “I think we all went out there wanting to do it for Chuck more than anything else. To see all the emotions on Mr. Irsay’s face, BA’s, everyone in there, I think it’s one of the greatest athletic moments I’ve ever been a part of.”
It’s a day nobody in Indy or around the league will soon forget.
Interim coach Bruce Arians, nicknamed BA, acknowledged he was fighting back tears when he spoke to reporters. From the sounds of it, so were Luck and Wayne.
The sometimes emotional team owner, Jim Irsay, sniffled as he spoke inside a silent locker room before dashing off dash to the hospital where Pagano is undergoing treatment for leukemia. He wanted to personally deliver the game ball to Pagano, who celebrated his 52nd birthday Tuesday.
“We know what kind of man we have down the street, fighting, fighting for his life, and winning the fight,” Irsay said. “You guys doing this today, Bruce coming in, all you guys pulling together, Reggie being so close to Chuck going back for so long. Everyone in here knows how much that this means, and this ball is going right down the street.”
Pagano made it perfectly clear Friday, in an emotional email to players and coaches, that he didn’t want guys playing for him; he simply wanted the Colts (2-2) to play for themselves and match last season’s victory total.
“Focus on being 500 by 4:30pm on Sunday. Nothing else,” he wrote. “That has to be our mind set. 60 minutes, all you got, one play at a time! WIN!”
Turns out the players wanted this one even more for Pagano than he wanted it for them.
“I’ve got 12 years of (special) games,” said Wayne, who has known Pagano since the two were at the University of Miami together in the late 1990s. “But this did mean a lot, just with the whole deal with how the week’s been going. You know, I talked to coach Pagano and he wanted us to win so bad. Is it a high? Yeah. I don’t necessarily have one other than the Super Bowl game. But it’s up there.”
Team officials honored Pagano by hanging signs that read (hash)Chuckstrong behind each goal post and wore lapel pins with orange ribbons on a white background.
Luck and Wayne showed their support in another way.
The No. 1 draft pick was 31 of 55 throwing with two touchdowns and one interception, and ran for a TD, too.
Wayne finished with 13 receptions for a career-high 212 yards — the second-highest total in Colts history behind Hall of Famer Raymond Berry in 1957. And he wore the orange gloves, instead of the traditional pink ones for breast cancer awareness month, because that’s the color for leukemia patients.
“I just wanted to do something, you know, for Chuck,” Wayne explained. “I had some equipment guys make some calls. If they (NFL officials) fine me, they fine me, I really feel like that would be a terrible thing to do, but if so, so be it, I’ll go ahead and take the fine and do it for Chuck.”
It was a wild finish to an emotionally-charged week in Indy that began with Monday morning’s announcement that Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia after players left for their bye week.
Green Bay (2-3) had a chance to force overtime with a 51-yard field goal. But Mason Crosby’s attempt went left with 3 seconds to go, setting off an emotional celebration on the Colts sideline.
“I thought they (Colts) played well,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Obviously, a tough week for them. I thought they played with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy. Frankly, I’m more focused on my football team and my football team is not playing the way we are capable of playing.”
Pagano knew the motto all week would be to win one for the coach.
On Friday, he set out to change that speech — a message Wayne and Luck took personally, especially after falling into a 21-3 halftime deficit.
In the second half, the Colts dominated.
Luck threw an 8-yard TD pass to Dwayne Allen and set up Adam Vinatieri for a 50-yard field goal to make it 21-13 midway through the third quarter. He then ran it in from 3 yards out with 18 seconds left in the third quarter to get the Colts within 21-19.
A few minutes later, Vinatieri hit a 28-yard field goal to give Indy its first lead, 22-21.
But Aaron Rodgers got Green Bay’s offense back in sync in a hurry.
Alex Green ran 41 yards on the Packers’ first play, and Rodgers threw an 8-yard TD pass to James Jones on the next one to give the Packers a 27-20 lead with 4:30 to go. Rodgers was 21 of 33 for 243 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
All the Packers had to do was stop Luck one more time to clinch it.
Luck and Wayne wouldn’t allow it.
With the clock ticking down and anxious fans hoping and praying they could get this win for Pagano, Luck converted two third-down passes to Wayne, then scrambled for a third third-down conversion before, fittingly, spotting Wayne for the go-ahead score.
“Chuck’s instilled a lot in us,” Wayne said. “His whole motto since day one, the first meeting has been team team, team, team. Nothing else. So we’ve wanted to do it every week as a team. That’s all we practice, that’s all we preach.”
SAINTS 31, CHARGERS 24
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees broke a half-century-old NFL record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, and the New Orleans Saints won for the first time this season, 31-24 over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night.
Brees’ 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson eclipsed the mark of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass set by Johnny Unitas from 1956-60.
Brees’ also had three scoring strikes to Marques Colston, giving him a franchise-record 52 touchdown catches with the Saints (1-4).
At Brees’ request, the NFL allowed head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis — all serving various suspensions in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation — to attend the game. They and Johnny Unitas son, Joe, saw Brees pass for 370 yards.
Philip Rivers passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers (3-2), but had an interception and fumble in the final quarter.
FALCONS 24, REDSKINS 17
LANDOVER, Md. — Michael Turner ran 13 yards for the go-ahead score with 2:46 to play, and Atlanta knocked Robert Griffin III out of the game.
The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Matt Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes for 345 yards as Atlanta handed Washington (2-3) its eighth consecutive home loss.
Griffin left the game in the third quarter after being hit in the head on a sack by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Coach Mike Shanahan said RG3 has a “mild concussion.”
Kirk Cousins took over and threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss to give the Redskins a fourth-quarter lead, but the fourth-round pick also threw two interceptions in the final two minutes.
PATRIOTS 31, BRONCOS 21
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady won his latest showdown with Peyton Manning with the help of a career-high 151 yards rushing from Stevan Ridley.
In the 13th meeting between the star quarterbacks, and first since Manning left the Indianapolis Colts, Brady directed four scoring marches of at least 80 yards and the Patriots rushed for 252 yards.
Brady improved to 9-4 against Manning, He completed 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown and ran for another. Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns but lost a fumble on a third-quarter sack. The fumble led to Ridley’s 8-yard run that put the Patriots (3-2) ahead 31-7 with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
Manning then threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley but Denver (2-3) lost a fumble with 3:42 remaining.
STEELERS 16, EAGLES 14
PITTSBURGH — Shaun Suisham hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
The Eagles (3-2) took the lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Brent Celek with 6:33 remaining, but the Steelers responded by driving 64 yards, including a pair of key third-down conversions by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to set up the winning kick.
Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall ran for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first game of the season as the Steelers (2-2) avoided their first two-game losing streak in three years.
Vick completed 20 of 30 passes for 175 yards and two scores but fumbled twice for the Eagles, whcouldn’t keep their string of narrow early-season victories going.
DOLPHINS17, BENGALS 13
CINCINNATI — Reshad Jones intercepted Andy Dalton’s overthrown pass at midfield with 1:22 left, preserving a win that ended two weeks of miserable, last-minute finishes for Miami.
Miami (2-3) had dropped its past two games in overtime. The Dolphins held on against the Bengals (3-2), who never got anything going consistently on offense and wasted a chance for a tighter finish.
Mike Nugent was wide right on a 42-yard field goal try with 3 minutes left — his first miss of the season — giving the Dolphins a chance to run down the clock behind rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was smooth in the toughest moments.
The Bengals got the ball back at their 20 following a punt with 1:45 to go, but Dalton’s second interception sealed it. Dalton was 26 of 43 for 234 yards with three sacks and two interceptions.
GIANTS 41, BROWNS 27
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Victor Cruz and Ahmad Bradshaw set career bests in leading New York Giants over winless Cleveland.
Cruz caught three touchdown passes from Eli Manning covering 3, 7 and 28 yards, while Bradshaw surpassed his yardage on the ground for the season with a career-high 200. He had 132 entering the game.
The Giants are 9-0 in games he has rushed for 100 yards or more.
New York (3-2) also forced three turnovers, including Chase Blackburn’s interception in the end zone midway in the fourth quarter to clinch it.
The Browns are 0-5 for the first time since their return season to the NFL in 1999.
RAVENS 9, CHIEFS 6
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ray Rice ran for 101 yards and Justin Tucker made all three of his field goal attempts.
Joe Flacco threw for 187 yards and was picked off once, but the Ravens (4-1) were still able to come up with enough points to beat the Chiefs (1-4), who turned it over four times.
Matt Cassel threw for 92 yards, was intercepted twice and credited with two lost fumbles before leaving in the fourth quarter with what the Chiefs described as a head injury. Brady Quinn led Kansas City to another field goal by Ryan Succop.
VIKINGS 30, TITANS 7
MINNEAPOLIS — Percy Harvin pounded his way through Tennessee’s defense for one touchdown rushing and another receiving for Minnesota.
Harvin caught eight passes for 108 yards for the Vikings (4-1), who have given up a combined 33 points in winning three straight games. Christian Ponder threw his first two interceptions after 143 attempts without one, but he still finished 25 for 35 for 258 yards and two scores against the reeling Titans (1-4).
Matt Hasselbeck, starting in place of the injured Jake Locker, went 26 for 43 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Most of those gains came near the end with the outcome no longer in doubt.
49ERS 45, BILLS 3
SAN FRANCISCO — Alex Smith threw for a season-high 303 yards and three touchdowns, Frank Gore ran for 106 yards and a score, and San Francisco amassed a franchise-record 621 yards.
Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis each eclipsed 100 yards receiving to back Smith, who threw TD passes of 43, 28 and 10 yards and surpassed 300 yards passing for only the third time in his career.
Rian Lindell kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter before San Francisco scored the final 42 points to hand Buffalo (2-3) its second straight embarrassing loss.
BEARS 41, JAGUARS 3
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs returned interceptions for touchdowns — their second in six days — and Chicago used stifling defense to overwhelm Jacksonville.
The Bears (4-1) scored 38 unanswered points, including 35 in the second half, to win their third consecutive game. The streak has everything to do with defense.
Chicago has returned five interceptions for touchdowns in the last three weeks.
Tillman and Briggs returned two of the team’s five interceptions for touchdowns in Monday night’s 34-18 victory at Dallas. Safety Major Wright returned one the previous week against St. Louis.
The Jaguars (1-4) never recovered and played the final quarter amid a chorus of boos.
SEAHAWKS 16, PANTHERS 12
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Russell Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 35 seconds left in the third quarter and Seattle came up with four sacks against Cam Newton.
Wilson shook off two third quarter interceptions — including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Wilson threw for 221 yards, while Marshawn Lynch ran for 85 yards for the Seahawks (3-2).
Newton threw for 141 yards on 12-for-29 passing, while the Panthers (1-4) managed 190 total yards. Their only touchdown came on Captain Munnerlyn’s 33-yard interception return early in the third quarter.
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